I grew up largely in the 1980s, and was probably about Belle’s age when I really started to discover pop music. One of my first loves was Madonna. Her music, her style, her confidence – I thought it was, to use an authentic 80s era phrase, “totally awesome”. I got her Like A Virgin cassette (!!) for my birthday around that time.
I know my mother absolutely cringed at most of Madonna’s work. To her, Madonna’s aggressive sexuality was vulgar, her videos were inappropriate, and she wasn’t even that talented. I’m sure she died a little inside knowing her oldest child was listening to song lyrics such as, “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time” before leaving elementary school.
You know that cliché that says you’ll have children someday and face the same problems you once created for your own mother? What goes around does indeed come around – except Madonna has kind of slipped quietly into the background of the music business, to be replaced in my kids’ lives by Lady Gaga.
The twist, however, is that I actually like Lady Gaga. For me, a lot of her music evokes nostalgic feelings about dancing in clubs in my early 20s, few responsibilities weighing on me and preventing me from downing another Technicolor shot served in a test tube. Certainly not all of her music is lyrically profound, but I love the message in “Born This Way”, which is all about self-acceptance and tolerance. “I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes” – how many of us want our kids to internalize that message, right?
So I pick and choose my battles – they can listen to certain songs with lyrics that have passed my approval test. I don’t let them watch the videos, because while I can appreciate Gaga’s desire to push the envelope and be creative, her videos are too sexual, and sometimes even a bit too scary, for my kids to see until they are MUCH older. (We’ll see how long I can maintain control over that.)
It’s kind of neat to bond with my kids over pop culture. My parents and I found occasional media to mutually appreciate, but music was almost never a place where we could connect. They recoiled at the Metallica blasting from my bedroom while I rolled my eyes and sighed dramatically through long car rides spent serenaded by James Taylor.
Today, my girls and I form a bona fide trio in the car together, unashamedly singing about our “P-P-P-Poker Face” and rolling our Rs in “Alejandro”. It’s really pretty cool – or, it will be until my singing starts to embarrass them and they tell me to shut it. I am always on the lookout for popular songs with positive messages that I’m happy to share with my daughters. (“Firework” by Katy Perry and “Fuckin’ Perfect by Pink – don’t worry, I have the clean version!! are other current faves.)
Now if I can just get little Jasmine in on the action… she has a speech delay, but I bet with patience I could teach her “Rah rah ah-ah-ah, Ro mah ro-mah-mah, Gaga ooh-la-la”.